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Verifying Nuclear Disarmament: Lessons Learned in South Africa, Iraq and Libya

0123 Verifying Disarmament Kelley Cover
Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Stockholm :
January, 2023

Inspections in the 1990s and early 2000s in South Africa, Iraq and Libya were designed to discover the details of nuclear weapon programmes and destroy any remnants. As the global norm against nuclear weapons strengthens, the international community may once more require verification of a state’s denuclearization. But success in the three earlier cases does not guarantee success in the next similar task—any future inspection mission must learn from the lessons of the past.

This report draws on the unique experience of Robert E. Kelley, a participant in all three past denuclearization efforts. In it, he gives an account of the unique scale and circumstances of each investigation and the different tools and approaches required. By publicly documenting and comparing obstacles and successes in the three cases for the first time, this report gives meaningful and practical insight into the difficult work of disarmament and its verification. It is an essential resource for future inspectors—and all others interested in what real disarmament looks like on the ground.


1. Introduction

2. Voluntary transparency visits in South Africa 

3. Confrontational inspections in Iraq   

4. Small-scale inspections in Libya

5. Lessons learned 

6. Conclusions: Six lessons of the past for future disarmament  


Robert E. Kelley is a Distinguished Associate Fellow at SIPRI.